This phenomena has existed since the dawn of filmmaking wherein classic stories and legends from all around the world are adapted into motion pictures. One prime example would be Elizabeth Taylor’s portrayal of Cleopatra in the 1963 film adaptation of the Egyptian Queen’s story. If you’ve taken a geography class before, Egypt is located in Africa and they are an ethnic group with people who mainly have a dark complexion. This was probably one of her most famous roles but unfortunately it is just another instance of white women representing women of color.
In some cases, the excuse for casting white actors in such movies is that it is a marketing strategy, especially if such actors are well-known in the industry. Although it is true that using popular celebrities can gain more profit and attention, it is quite wrong to favour using white actors than casting people of colour who would fit the true and natural description of the characters.
You see, his response is just problematic and ridiculous. First of all, what the fuck does he mean by Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such? Second, he deliberately chose white actors for the main cast implying it was easier yet he managed to have several people of colour portraying as slaves and extras. And third, he’s Ridley Scott; the same person who produced notable films such as Prometheus with Idris Elba and who directed American Gangster starring Denzel Washington. So it’s quite confusing as to why he couldn’t pull some strings to be able to cast people of colour in this film.
These Egypt-based movies are just a small portion of the whitewashing phenomena (you can learn more about appreciating Egypt from last week’s article). As mentioned, this could also occur through the non-diversity of television programs and other movies as well as the "whitening" of celebrities in photos.
This is in fact brought about by racial bias. In other words: it is racist. It is without doubt that the idea of “white” or light skin being far more superior and attractive has greatly affected, for several years, not just media but also the mindsets of people working for it. This issue is another one added to the list of concrete evidences that racism is still evident in the modern world. And casting more people of color should be done to help lessen the prevalence of it within our society, but unfortunately, parts of media still need to work on being less ignorant.
- Reign Gonzales
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References: 1 | 2 | 3